Review: Donnybrook by Frank Bill

frankbillI know I’ve mentioned this a time or two, but my first introduction to Frank Bill was an excerpt of DONNYBROOK that appeared on Do Some Damage almost three years ago. I had just filtered my way into the crime fiction community, discovered flash fiction, and DSD was my gateway to enumerable sites and authors. It was that excerpt that sent me on hunt for more Frank Bill, and the discovery of many stories that appeared in his debut short story collection, CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA.

For my entertainment value Frank has done good by me, DONNYBROOK was no exception.

“I don’t make threats. I offer moments to reconcile one’s shitty choices”

donnybrook-ukTowards the end of Frank Bill’s novel, Chainsaw Angus, a retired bare-knuckle brawler turned meth user/dealer, utters the quote above and it stuck out. It just buzzed in my ear and to my reading encapsulated the entire book’s tone. DONNYBROOK is a series of interwoven characters, each who come from troubling circumstances, leading them to make shitty choice after shitty choice. The only reconciliation for these characters is to keep punching forward through the consequence of those choices, to beat and batter their way towards their rightful reward. And for Chainsaw Angus, the bombastic Liz, the double-crossing Ned and the morally skewed Jarhead Earl that leads them to the three-day fight festival known as Bellmont McGill’s Donnybrook. And not far behind are Deputy Sheriff Whalen looking for revenge and the exotic Fu Xi seeking to collect a debt.

DONNYBROOK is all at once a high octane juggernaut of violence and destruction, while also being a reflective commentary on the disintegration of Southern Indiana wrought from meth addiction and economic poverty. A moral decay blights a lost Orange County, and our protagonists—if there are any, because there are no heroes here, only survivors—choose to forge their way with busted knuckles and spent bullets to each their deserved reward.

For a book I’ve waited nearly three years to read, Frank Bill served up the social canvas he laid down with CRIMES and then gave it an unhealthy bump of meth-fueled adventure. Like I’ve said before Frank Bill doesn’t disappoint, and I wouldn’t pass on my thoughts just to build him up. I enjoyed DONNYBROOK from cover to cover, and look forward to what Frank cooks up next because I’ve already got the itch.

donnybrookSo while I’m miserable for the next Frank Bill, I thought I might make you miserable as well. I’ve found myself with two copies of DONNYBROOK, one red and one blue. I don’t need both, even though they look mighty pretty on my bookshelf, so I’m going to give one away. The winner can choose the color. So what do you have to do?

It’s going to be a wait until the next Frank Bill release, so here’s what I want. I want you to fill up the comments with recommendations of new, old and not released novels and collections to keep pangs away, to feed and fill me up with comparable material. So drop me one title by whoever and sell me on the plot. Recommend as many as you like, each in their own comment. I’ll pick my favorite and send the winner a copy of Frank Bill’s DONNYBROOK.

  • Ryan Sayles

    Well, Ron. I know this guy named Ryan who has a book out called “The Subtle Art Of Brutality.” reading the Donnybrook quote up above reminds me of something I read in that book. Let’s see, what was it…oh. Here it is. “If you’ve never tasted a man’s grey matter tinged with gun powder and revenge you have an inexperienced palette.”

    So the plot is this: a girl has gone missing and people wouldn’t care–hell, that’s all she does, really–but for some reason people are looking for her. And they’re killing whoever they find. Burning down everything in her life. Her surrogate father hires Richard Dean Buckner to find her. RDB, a former homicide detective turned private after a hit attempt left him “unserviceable,” does what he does. And those people looking for the girl, they find out just how small they are when a new shark arrives.

  • Ryan Sayles

    Well, Ron. I know this guy named Ryan who has a book out called “The Subtle Art Of Brutality.” reading the Donnybrook quote up above reminds me of something I read in that book. Let’s see, what was it…oh. Here it is. “If you’ve never tasted a man’s grey matter tinged with gun powder and revenge you have an inexperienced palette.”

    So the plot is this: a girl has gone missing and people wouldn’t care–hell, that’s all she does, really–but for some reason people are looking for her. And they’re killing whoever they find. Burning down everything in her life. Her surrogate father hires Richard Dean Buckner to find her. RDB, a former homicide detective turned private after a hit attempt left him “unserviceable,” does what he does. And those people looking for the girl, they find out just how small they are when a new shark arrives.

  • If you haven’t read LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING by Peter Farris, add it to your list. A brief summary that doesn’t give away too much: A bank robbery ends with the taking of a hostage, an escape to rural Georgia, and the inevitable police investigation. That, of course, leaves out all the really good stuff (snake handling!)… The characters are wonderfully crafted (if often despicable), and the setting is as much a character as any of the people in the book.

  • Erik Arneson

    If you haven’t read LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING by Peter Farris, add it to your list. A brief summary that doesn’t give away too much: A bank robbery ends with the taking of a hostage, an escape to rural Georgia, and the inevitable police investigation. That, of course, leaves out all the really good stuff (snake handling!)… The characters are wonderfully crafted (if often despicable), and the setting is as much a character as any of the people in the book.

  • I’ll refer you to Trailer Park by Russell Banks. He’s a great writer, but/and Trailer Park shows his skill for linking together the stories of a rag tag bunch living in, well… a trailer park in southern New Hampshire. Women and men, sadness and slight happiness, this is a great book. One of my favorite collections of stories and a stellar example of the a collection where the stories are fully linked. if you’ve never read Banks, you have to. If you have, read this one asap!
    Seth
    PS: I’d love a copy of Donnybrook!

  • I’ll refer you to Trailer Park by Russell Banks. He’s a great writer, but/and Trailer Park shows his skill for linking together the stories of a rag tag bunch living in, well… a trailer park in southern New Hampshire. Women and men, sadness and slight happiness, this is a great book. One of my favorite collections of stories and a stellar example of the a collection where the stories are fully linked. if you’ve never read Banks, you have to. If you have, read this one asap!
    Seth
    PS: I’d love a copy of Donnybrook!

  • Barry Hannah’s Faulknerian final novel Yonder Stands Your Orphan is bleaker and bolder than anything he ever published when he was courting literary celebrity as the Jimi Hendrix of Esquire short fiction writers. Set in a secluded resort community populated by complicated Southern folks experiencing a wide variety of emotional and psychic hurts, Yonder chronicles the dangerous comings and goings of Man Mortimer, a smalltime pimp and car rental tycoon whose descent into madness visits treachery upon an entire town. Each of the book’s remaining characters (and there are many) exists in relation to Mortimer, but suffers a terrible secret or past, too. Wretched, startling lives are revealed every time Hannah’s characters open their mouths to speak their hearts in hopes of conquering all that haunts them. With age and ailment against him, Hannah continued reinventing his song and dance, proving what life experience almost always has over youth, ambition and/or envy. This, coincidentally, is the realization that evades Man Mortimer, though not the fortunate survivors found in Hannah’s most vividly imagined fiction in more than a decade.

  • Brian Beatty

    Barry Hannah’s Faulknerian final novel Yonder Stands Your Orphan is bleaker and bolder than anything he ever published when he was courting literary celebrity as the Jimi Hendrix of Esquire short fiction writers. Set in a secluded resort community populated by complicated Southern folks experiencing a wide variety of emotional and psychic hurts, Yonder chronicles the dangerous comings and goings of Man Mortimer, a smalltime pimp and car rental tycoon whose descent into madness visits treachery upon an entire town. Each of the book’s remaining characters (and there are many) exists in relation to Mortimer, but suffers a terrible secret or past, too. Wretched, startling lives are revealed every time Hannah’s characters open their mouths to speak their hearts in hopes of conquering all that haunts them. With age and ailment against him, Hannah continued reinventing his song and dance, proving what life experience almost always has over youth, ambition and/or envy. This, coincidentally, is the realization that evades Man Mortimer, though not the fortunate survivors found in Hannah’s most vividly imagined fiction in more than a decade.

  • Paul von Stoetzel

    Man, I’m not sure what the hell to compare it to reading like, but both the book and film of Winter’s Bone had a similar, sincere vibe like Frank has. Real grit and dirt and sweat. Actually, the comic book series “Scalped” gets down with the extreme violence and dirt and shit like Frank Bill’s work does. But besides anything relevant to Donnybrook I have to say Jedidiah Ayres new novel FIERCE BITCHES is goddamn amazing and needs to be read, digested, poked at, and pondered. It’s an incredible read.

  • Paul von Stoetzel

    Man, I’m not sure what the hell to compare it to reading like, but both the book and film of Winter’s Bone had a similar, sincere vibe like Frank has. Real grit and dirt and sweat. Actually, the comic book series “Scalped” gets down with the extreme violence and dirt and shit like Frank Bill’s work does. But besides anything relevant to Donnybrook I have to say Jedidiah Ayres new novel FIERCE BITCHES is goddamn amazing and needs to be read, digested, poked at, and pondered. It’s an incredible read.